When refering to copywriting at Utopian, there has always been a mist of uncertainty. As if we were talking about an ancient and mysterious creature, a dark monster that we can't comprehend. Contributors have been cautious on what to submit in this category and they normally stick to the kind of documentation that has been approved before.
However, we have not made it easy for them to understand it either. We have been expecting a deep change in their approach without letting them know what this is all about explicitly. We can even go as far as saying that we quoted Wikipedia as a source on what this category was all about in our guidelines. And this happened for longer time than we would like to admit.
From the very start there were misconceptions on what we want to do with the Copywriting category. The purpose of this post is to further explain why what we have been doing is not just "persuasive writing" as could be perceived by merely looking at the definition of copywriting.
Credit: jmromero - Word Art
The Implications of Copywriting.
What the hell is copywriting, then? How come this guy says we are messing it all up? To be as impertinent as possible, let’s start by sticking to Wikipedia. That way, copywriting is "no more" than writing content for advertising or marketing. A copy is then a writen material used to persuade a person or group and to increase brand awareness. Landing pages, advertisements, billboards, catalogs, commercial scripts and sales letters are examples of copywriting materials.
Credit: ribkhan - Pixabay
Having said that, copywriting is the art of convencing your audience to take a particular action that benefits your cause. Let's think of it as a sales pitch where the author's main focus is to make you get his product: Man, you totally need what I'm writing you about.
Now, please note that I'm saying get his product and not buy his product. Open source projects do need copywriting the same way they need marketing and visibility efforts. A perfect explanation on how is this compatible with free and open software is provided by our lovely and brilliant CMO, @techslut, in her guide to Marketing Open Source Projects, which I'm sure we all impatiently want to keep reading.
Knowing that copywriting is of great help to open source software, it seems odd to say that the approach to the category has been wrong so far. To enlighten the monster we need to tackle we need to take a look at the Copywriting category back from the start.
Copywriting and Utopian.
Almost a year ago, the category faced the same issues that is facing now: a low submission count and only a handfull of loyal contributors. The most outstanding contributor Utopian had at that time was no other than our previous copywriting CM @imwatsi.
Back in the day, @imwatsi started a series of copywriting contributions based on a really bright idea, the Utopian Help Center. The Utopian Help Center intends to be "a site where new Utopian users can find resources that help them to get acquainted with the Utopian.io platform quicker."
Credit: @imwatsi - Utopian Help Center's Github repository
To achieve that goal he started writing FAQs, tutorials, quick start guides, and descriptions on how Utopian works. If I were to categorize the documents in the Utopian Help Center, I would call them engaging and informative.
Let's go through Utopian's copywriting submissions across all the months between those early posts from @imwatsi and today. What we can find is standarized documents like privacy policies, disclaimers, descriptions on projects and project owners, guidelines and other non-technical documentation. Those texts could also be labeled as engaging and/or informative.
At this point you probably already noticed the line I'm trying to draw here.
While I want to remark that these contributions have value for the projects they were made , they are not persuasive writing aimed at triggering a reaction on the readers. They are not copies. They are content. Why do we have just "mere" content in the category if it was supposed to be "copywriting"?
Copy vs Content.
We already described copy as a salesperson knocking on your door, making your fingers itch by the need to do something. However, this is just an early definition of copywriting. The reality is that the job market defines the extent of our work, as with everything else.
Credit: anne mccoll - LiquidSketch
It is a consequence of this reality that the "copywriting" job positions started to include more content creation and content strategy than before. Gone are the days where the copywriter only had to convince readers. Now the truth behind copywriting is that it somehow is entitled to content writing as well.
Based on that fact, it's only natural that our Copywriting category is actually more centered on content creation that only on persusive writing and therefore, it serves as a bastion to all written content that could be of great value to an open source project.
But just to let everything extremely clear, let's also define content. Content is then a piece of information directed towards an audience. A quite broad definition for a vastly broad field.
When you think about the Copywriting category based on this new wider definition of copy and content writing aligned together, it starts making sense again. You have thrown some light on the monster and it doesn't look that scary. This is what Utopian meant when the category was created.
With this new understanding of what we meant to say, what Utopian's Copywriting category stands for and what we can include on it, let's all wonder on the inmensity of possibilities that arise in front of us. Take a look at any open source project that has ever been and notice how every single one of them was, is or will be in need of content writers. In need of someone just like you.
Because I know that content is everywhere and our fantastic userbase can exponentially add value on free and open source software anywhere, I invite you to help us empower more projects.
Be the sword to finally slay this monster.